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November 24, 2021

Remember to cast your vote

I’m a member of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District Board of Directors but I’m speaking only for myself today. I want to thank everyone for being engaged in the surcharge issue over the past weeks. I’ve seen each of the letter responses, read online posts and talked to people in our community. I’d like to follow up, in this last commentary before the Aug. 5 protest deadline, on a couple of comments. 

First are valid concerns about the increase in our water bills. The data shows a disturbing trend. In the chart accompanying this entry:

  • The gray line is the historical cost of 4 units.  
  • The blue line is what 4 units will cost in 2030 if the rate of growth these past 8 years (11.6%) continues.
  • The orange line is what 4 units will cost in 2030 if we match the rate of growth in operating expenses (7.1%) these past 8 years. (As budgeted, operating expenses will increase about $1.2 million from 2020 to 2022 or about $150 per customer per year.)
  • The green line is what 4 units will cost if we increase rates at 3.5% per year.  

No one has disputed these numbers. The Proposition 218 process gives you, as owners, the power to select which alternative you wish the board to pursue on your behalf. That is why your understanding and vote are so important.

Second, several of you asked if any alternatives were considered or developed for the CZU fire recovery.  I’m not aware of any, but the district certainly has other options. I thought I would present one.  

The district ended the fiscal year 2021 about 5% over budget in Operating Expenses ($420,000), of which about half the overage was directly due to the CZU fire and recovery effort. Typically, entities don’t increase budgets based on a prior year overage. Instead, you go back to the original budget and make surgical adjustments.

My proposal is as follows: Don’t add headcount. Add 3.5% to last year’s budget. Add another $200,000 for additional operating expenses due to ongoing fire recovery efforts.

That gives us an Operating Expense budget of about $8.6 million for this fiscal year (ending June 30, 2022). Compared to the approved budget for 2022, that’s a savings of about $562,000.  

Then, I propose using about 6% of our Operating Margin, or $200,000, to apply to the repairs. This amount comes from our Capital Budget, as these are infrastructure projects. That gets us to about $762,000.

Then, we have a surcharge for the remaining $238,000 to get to the $1 million a year target. This is about $2.30 per month ($27.60 per year), for most customers, for five years. I believe this is a more equitable cost share.

Please send in a protest vote by Aug. 5 if you’d like to put the board to work considering other options.  The form can be found at SLVWD.org.

Bob Fultz is a Boulder Creek resident. His views are his own, and not necessarily those of the Press Banner.

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